The Capital District in New York state is a great area. Much like Boston, we have a very diverse ethnic culture which includes a number of Asian cultures. It was this diversity that influenced me as a young chef to begin researching and cooking a variety of Asian cuisine. Recently I have been playing around with some traditional Chinese cuisine. By Chinese cuisine, I don’t mean the dishes you find at your buffet or take-out place, I am referring to dishes brought over by cooks that probably only cook these dishes in their homes or back in China.
There are a number of great shops to pick up traditional ingredients in this area. I personally shop at Kim’s Oriental on Central Ave. in Albany, Lee’s Market at 1170 Central Ave in Albany, and the Asian Food Market, LLC on Columnist Ave. in Albany. Asian Food Market is by far one of the better shops I have been to outside of Chinatown in NYC or Chinatown in San Francisco. A vast variety of fresh poultry, seafood, pork, and seafood, including live fish they will shock and cut to order for you on the spot.
On this last trip I picked up a number of things I do not use all that often. One of the most interesting was a fresh black skinned chicken called a Silkie. I have used these chickens before, but in the past I have always purchased them frozen. It is nice to have a place to get these items fresh. A warning to some of you squeamish types, in an Asian market the heads are usually still on much of the poultry when you purchase them as was the case with these fresh chickens. It is a sign of quality, much as in Italian culture, seafood is often served head on to show its freshness.
So I thought I would share a great traditional Chinese dish I prepared with the Silkie Chicken. This is a nice winter dish as it is a braise. Many might notice the extended period of time for braising this chicken and question why one would braise a chicken for so long. The Silkie is a small bird with a small amount of slightly tough flesh, this lends it to braised dishes which will create a pleasant fork tender meat. The Silkie chicken is also believed to have medicinal characteristics in Asian cuisine, so besides being tasty, perhaps it will cure some ailment you have as well.
2 Silkie chickens separated into four sections, 2 breasts, 2 legs and things (A normal 4-5 lb. chicken may be substituted)
5 tablespoons dark soy sauce or mushroom soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1 small onion, peeled and sliced thin
1 1/2 tablespoons black bean sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons sugar1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1. Rub the chicken pieces with dark soy sauce and let marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the pan when heated and add the ginger and garlic, quickly stir-fry until garlic begins to lightly brown.
3. Add the shallots and onion and stir-fry for a couple minutes, add the black bean sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and bring to a simmer, then add the stock and remove from heat.
4. Heat a cast iron pot over medium-high heat, add a couple Tablespoons vegetable oil and sear the chicken pieces on each side until golden brown.
5. Once all of the chicken has been browned, add the sauce to the pot with the chicken, bring sauce to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn chicken pieces over and let simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes.
6. Remove the chicken from the pot and simmer uncovered to reduce the sauce to about 1.5 to 2 cups.
7. Place chicken pieces on a platter and top with sauce, sprinkled cilantro over the top.